BUSINESS leaders across York have been able to tap into a network of peers to steer them out of the pandemic-induced panic and focus on the future.

Elliot Rich, a business coach and adviser who works with 25 businesses, said having a confidential sounding board had never been more important than during the crisis.

He is the managing director of The Alternative Board York (TAB), which supports business leaders in the city and surrounding area.

TAB was launched in the UK during the 2009 recession, and Elliot bought the York franchise four years ago, following a successful career. He previously ran James Heal (Halifax) - a market leader in the design and manufacture of precision testing solutions - with his father-in-law David Repper for 17 years before they sold the family business.

Before lockdown, Elliot met clients twice a month, including a one-to-one coaching/advisory session and a TAB Peer Board when up to eight business owners met for four hours a month, to discuss their challenges and opportunities in a supportive, confidential setting.

During the pandemic, Elliot has held the sessions online, helping businesses through the survival phase of the pandemic and now focusing on how to prosper afterwards.

“This is about having an established network," said Elliot. "We have been able to cater for people who have been hit like a steam train by Covid. They had a community they could talk to, not just a business professional or someone they knew, but a community waiting for them.”

He said TAB coaches had worked to support clients, holding virtual events and offering information to help members and franchise owners to run their businesses.

TAB has further developed online tools, workshops and systems to support coaching and advisory sessions. This includes TAB Connect, similar to LinkedIn but for TAB members, allowing support, advice and dialogue between members in more than 20 countries.

"We talk about their business but also their mindset, their mental health and well-being," said Elliot who has attracted and supported new clients during the crisis. "That forms a key part of how people are going to cope. Some people in week one were thinking their business was finished. It progressed through the weeks where they needed to pivot very quickly.

"There has been an incredible appetite for support, learning, focus and accountability. "

The TAB Business Blueprint Toolkit has also helped members create personal and business plans, define company values, develop strategic business plans, and maintain critical financial information.